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Magra

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MSI [May. 20th, 2013|10:41 pm]
Magra
I don't get it. I read about people bemoaning the lost era of Scrabble of the past ten years. In reality, what we had was pretty unremarkable. I love the community that I belong to but we have been exceptionally static for the past decade. Aside maybe from Michael Tang's Causeway ambitions, this is the best thing that's happened to Scrabble since ESPN getting involved! We have no excuse for not getting behind MSI and showing them as much support as we can to encourage them to stick with their plans. This is far and away the best thing we have. Sure, it's a little riskier than the past alternatives, but it has to be worth taking if we care about the growth of competitive Scrabble.
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BAT [Apr. 22nd, 2013|11:49 am]
Magra
Just posted all of my games from BAT - looks like I didn't make too many big mistakes, but I blew two games against Ian and Joel Sherman and my shenanigans against Cesar could easily have cost me a third.

In a lot of these games I made little mistakes early that ended up having a really significant impact on the course of the game. Sometimes I hear people argue that small errors at the beginning of the game don't matter as much as saving time for the endgame, but against great players you really have to choose carefully early to make sure that you have all of the options you want later (and prevent them from doing what they want to do as well).

Here's my game with Rafi where I made some inaccurate choices in the first few moves:
Rafi

Here's a game with Scott Appel that was immensely frustrating at the time but interesting in retrospect:
here

The most fun game of the tournament was probably this one with Joel Sherman until I blew it at the end
here

This is the relatively easy pre-endgame sequence against Ian that I blew in the opening round of the tournament:
here

Here are a few positions where I'm still not sure what I should've done:
here

here
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thoughts [Mar. 7th, 2013|01:15 am]
Magra
(cross-posted from facebook)

Today, I had the chance to go visit a couple of tech companies over in San Francisco. I've seen the lifestyle at these places before so none of it was quite as surprising as the first time. Still, the creature comforts are pretty staggering. Futuristic workspaces. Catered food. Delicious lattes. In-house gym. Ping pong tables. Arcade games. Walls you can write on. Clever architecture with lots of natural light. Indoor boccie court. I made the last one up, but I wouldn't be surprised if it existed somewhere.




I'm not especially motivated by money, so let's leave that aside in the comparison. But it's hard not to look at what life would be like working in tech compared to what I do now. There are a ton of small benefits. I could live in SF. I would get to work with lots and lots of other smart young talented people. I would feel less isolated. I would most likely be eating more healthily. I would get to be working on things that are new and exciting and then I would get to move on and do something else. I love puzzles! Puzzles are basically what I do for fun anyway. Somehow solving them for a living is not something that ever occurred to me.

I don't mean to make working a tech job sound like a cakewalk, because it clearly isn't. Everyone I know who works in some kind of tech job works super-long hours. The jobs are hard to get and competitive once you're in them. You could get fired.

So, there has to be some kind of motivation that drives smart people to go to grad school in science instead of going and getting a real job, right? So what are people motivated by? Here's a semi-serious list I can come up with:

-The intrinsic value of generating new knowledge
-A belief that your work is potentially important to the rest of the world
-Your life gains more meaning from your choice of academic study than it would from working in an office
-You look down on people whose daily lives involve generating financial profit for others
-The belief that you are unable to get a real job or unsuited to it if you did get one
-Flexibility
-The potential to make more money by adding more letters after your name
-You can replace yourself with a sock puppet or a lifesize cardboard cutout and it may go unnoticed for several weeks
-Reliving your college glory days by pretending you're an undergrad
-Inertia because you've already been in school for the last 16+ years anyway

There are days when one or more of these feel like they apply, but others where none of them do at all. Beyond that, being a graduate student is lonely. The thought of being around more than just the same 50 people every day is appealing.

So, given all these factors, why am I still in grad school?

I don't have an answer to this question. Suggestions?
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The 5 hardest countries to qualify for worlds from [Feb. 27th, 2013|02:36 pm]
Magra
not getting any work done, so I figured I would write up something that's on my mind...

Honorable mentions:
Ghana - they seem to have had players do well over the years, but I don't have anyone in particular in mind.

Indonesia - I know they have a good youth scene, and I expect them to start doing well, but somehow Ferdy Antonius always ends up being their representative anyway.

Malaysia - it seems like they will have to choose between a bunch of good players of comparable ability to fill in their 3 spots. Go Vannitha!

the Philippines - They have three world-class players in Odette, Marlon and Teodoro Martus and only two spots. However, since my mortal nemesis (Martus) is apparently going on temporary hiatus, this year won't be quite so brutal.

USA - The US has never been that tough until recently (see qualification tournaments in the 2000s with 6 attendees and 3 spots) but the last WSC and this year are proving to be different as Collins interest ramps up. Still, we get a ton of spots so I'm not going to list us any higher.

5. Malta
Malta is clearly the best of the countries that only get one representative for this year. Theresa Brousson is one of the best women in the world, and they have another strong player in David Delicata. That's enough to land them here.

4. India
I have no idea if Goutham is going to try to qualify as a resident of Singapore or India, which makes a big difference in this ranking...but India is clearly an up-and-comer in the scrabble world. They have some worlds-level experts in Akshay Bhandarkar and Sherwin Rodrigues, and I know next to zero about Shanker Menon, but he just emerged out of nowhere to come 3rd in Vienna. I think they'll be picking up another spot this year.

3. Singapore
Singapore has a ton of good young players, including Goutham who had a spectacular run at Kings Cup last year, scoring record holder Toh Weibin and Indonesian transplant Ricky Purnomo. Hubert Wee has been on the scene for almost a decade and has a legitimate chance at winning the whole thing. Add to that some other perennial experts like Cheah and Tony Sim, and it's clearly going to be a brutal selection process.

2. Nigeria
Nigeria is a rising power in the Scrabble world, offering the biggest prize of any tournament in the world last year (Godswill) and featuring a host of talented experts who receive state subsidy to compete. From what I gather, they recently hosted a training camp to improve their preparation for the African Scrabble Championship, showing how seriously they will take their worlds preparation. Their biggest obstacle to success is the prospect of another Worlds in Eastern Europe that might see them foiled by visa issues again. It also sounds like they are having their fair share of domestic issues, with top player Wellington Jighere now out of the picture and some kind of ongoing Scrabble rift in the country featuring lots of rhetorical flourish. I have no idea how they will choose which experts to send or if any will make it at all, but if they do, watch out...Rex Ogbakpa, Nsikan Etim, Ayorinde Saidu and recent Malta winner Chinedu Okwelogu are all names to watch out for.

1. Thailand
It is absolutely SICK that Thailand only has 6 qualifiers. Sure, Panupol is apparently on semi-permanent hiatus, but they might have the second-most Scrabble talent of any country in the world anyway. There have been years where either Pakorn or Panupol haven't played Worlds because they weren't able to qualify! Pakorn, Jakkrit, Charnwit, Marut, Komol and Chollapat are all at the elite level or above, not to mention more young talent like Charnrit and Preedee Khongthanarat, Taewan and 2012 Kings cup runner-up Thacha...there seems to be a systematic trend of them under-performing as a team at Worlds, perhaps in part because of travel expenses preventing some of their younger members from attending. Realistically, Thailand should have more like 9 or 10 spots at least, but it will be awhile before that's the case.
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NOLA game V cree [Feb. 7th, 2013|12:50 pm]
Magra
http://www.cross-tables.com/annotated.php?u=13456#0#

chris added some comments so it could be worth your while to take a look.
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Belated portland games [Nov. 21st, 2012|09:41 am]
Magra
I'm finally catching up on my backlog of tournament games. Some of my early bird games were already up (including this highly entertaining thread about some questionable decisions I made) but I am finally getting to the main event. I had forgotten how entertaining my first four games were - that's all I've had time to go through for now, but there's definitely things worth looking at in all of them, especially 3 and 4 against a couple of good up-and-coming players.

round 1 v Wayne Clifford
round 2 v Peter Huszagh
round 3 v Chris Tallman
round 4 v Ron Gideons
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Kilometrics (TM) [Nov. 5th, 2012|12:09 pm]
Magra
During my recent Asia trip, Inspired by the unbelievable Hong Kong skyline, I did something while I was there that I very rarely do: I went on a couple of nice longish runs. It was great! However, even better was that as I tried to calculate how far I'd gone (about four miles), it became apparent that if I used kilometers, it would turn out to be a whole six kilometers! wow!

Inspired by my experience, I've decide not only to measure all distances using the metric system, but also to create a completely independent system of competition: Kilometric running, in which all participants will have to measure the distances they've run in kilometers and test their mettle against fellow kilometricians. I expect runners to flock to the new system of races and abandon traditional mile-based racing - after all, who wouldn't want to see their times drop and their new, shiny, higher per kilometer velocities instead of slow-paced milerunner times?  Fortunately I found a Canadian race organizer (they're already partial to kilometrics up there) who not only wants his race to be kilometric but who even has created a whole swath of kilometric races AND a kilometrician standing list! It's been a relief not to have to compete with boring old milerunners.

In addition, since the rest of the world uses kilometers, it seems only fair that only fellow kilometric runners should be eligible to participate in international road races - or at the very least the mile runners should have to count the time taken to run an equivalent distant in miles. Coincidentally, I am also currently the number 1 ranked kilometrician in the USA, and I will be honored and humbled to represent the US at the 2016 Olympics.

(to be x-posted to CGP...I think)
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traveling [Oct. 18th, 2012|11:01 pm]
Magra
traveling is weird. Sometimes you think about it and plan for months ahead of time. Sometimes the time comes and it just happens. This time around, I've been so busy for the last month that it's completely shocking that I'm supposed to go to China tomorrow. I can't remember ever being quite as unprepared.

then again, on further reflection, when I was about to go to china for a whole year, I ended up not packing until the night before - my flight was at 7-8 am, and there I was at 3 am, with my mom helping me find stuff and asking me why I left things to the last second yet again. I don't know if I've ever had another travel experience that was as intense. Saying goodbye to mom was tough. I was really focused in on life. Everything seemed significant. I had a great couple of flights on Korean Air through Seoul, and somehow the airplane food was the best I've had (bibimbap!) and I watched a couple of great movies that I still think about today: More than Blue was one, I can't remember the other.

As I landed in Beijing it was already nighttime. I remember flying through a really dense layer of clouds (or more accurately, smog) and being filled with tension...I was also under the impression that once I got off the plane, I could no longer speak anything but Chinese - because of the "language pledge" that was part of the program I was doing where we were only supposed to speak Chinese at all times except to family/friends back home...so I got off the plane and immediately began stumbling my way around for the next day, somehow miraculously finding my way to my dorm in the process. The first time I went out to get food was probably the most stressed out I ever was in my entire year there. Finally, on the second day I was there I bumped into a teacher in my dorm and as I tried to talk to her in Chinese she said "you can speak in English for now, you know..."

Here's hoping that this go-around will be as memorable in its own way.
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cesar and I played this game [Sep. 10th, 2012|01:34 am]
Magra
http://www.cross-tables.com/annotated.php?u=12359#1#

i
t is not very exciting, but there is some entertainment value and we both teamed up to annotate it.
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congratulations to the 2013 player of the year, [Aug. 20th, 2012|06:33 pm]
Magra
David Gibson.

the current formula is not very good.
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